Diamond Color

Diamond color is a Fancy Colored Diamond’s most significant characteristic. In fact, unlike a colorless diamond where the 4C's (carat weight, clarity, color, and cut) are all equally important to the overall value, the color characteristic plays the most important role in the value of the diamond.

With white diamonds the absence of color is what makes the diamonds so precious. However, in the case of fancy colored diamonds, the presence of color and the intensity of how it shines is specifically what increase the value of the stones.

 A Leibish & Co. Collection of Yellow, Pink, Blue, and Green Diamonds

A Leibish & Co. Collection of Yellow, Pink, Blue, and Green Diamonds



Most of the natural fancy color diamonds found are not a single or pure color. Some diamonds have a combination of two, three, and sometimes even four colors within the composition of the stone.


 Fancy Colored Diamonds

A mix of Natural Fancy Color Diamonds 


Diamond Grading

The white diamond grading system measures the amount of color present in the stone (or actually the absence of color), and breaks it down into six definitive categories.


 The White Diamond Grading Scale

The white diamond grading scale

 Yellow diamonds color scale

The combination between white diamonds and yellow diamonds start from close to the end of the white diamond color grade scale.



In fact, the very end of the white diamond color scale is where the fancy colored diamond color scale begins. The last two groups in the white diamond color scale are referred to as Cape diamonds, which are actually Very Faint or Very Light Yellow or Brown Diamonds.

Learn more about Yellow Diamonds and Brown Diamonds.


However, Fancy Colored Diamonds are graded on a different scale altogether. As opposed to single letter grades, colored diamonds are referred to by the actual colors within the stone.


When assessing a fancy colored diamond, there are two major characteristics that define the color of the stone.


  • The Color
  • The Intensity


Defining the Color of a Diamond


There are twelve different main fancy colors. Colored diamonds can contain one single pure color or be combined with one, two, or even three overtones.


 Different Colored Diamonds

The 12 different main colors of Natural Fancy Colored Diamonds

From left to right - Yellow, Pink, Blue, Green, Orange, Brown, Violet, Gray, Purple, Red, Fancy Black, and Fancy White

Learn more about Defining the Color of a Diamond.


Defining the Intensity of a Diamond


The intensity of the color is described as how strong the color is shown in the diamond. The color can be anywhere between a soft whisper to a strong vivid shade. GIA developed an intensity scale to properly define the intensity level of the diamond.


Learn more about Defining the Intensity of a Diamond.


Though the carat weight, the cut, and the clarity are all extremely important factors of the diamond quality, the color and intensity of the diamond are the most relevant characteristics with regards to the value of the stone.


 Fancy Color Diamond Intensity

The image shows the different intensity levels of Pink, Blue, and Green diamonds.

From left to right: Faint, Very Light, Light, Fancy Light, Fancy, Fancy Intense, Fancy Vivid and Fancy Deep


History of Color Grading

The fancy colored diamond grading scale was developed by the GIA in the mid-1970s. With the growth in popularity of fancy colors, the industry required some sort of a standardized list in order to better define and understand the stones. Unlike colorless diamonds, because there are so many color combinations available, the decision was made to grade natural fancy colored diamonds with a description as opposed to a letter.


Shmulik Polnauer louping the 1.68-carat, Fancy Vivid Purplish Pink, Radiant-shaped diamond

Shmulik Polnauer, Leibish & Co. GG GIA, assessing the color of a 1.68carat, Fancy Vivid Purplish Pink Diamond

White stones, on the other hand, are graded on an alphabetic scale. Many years ago people used various color grading systems including Roman and Arabic numerals to grade their diamonds. Others used an 'A, B, and C' scale where 'AA' and 'AAA' would have been given to higher grade stones. In 1953, a man named Richard T. Liddicoat, from the GIA (The Gemological Institute of America), developed a standardized grading scale that measured colorless stones from 'D-Z.' The letter 'D' was chosen as an appropriate start for the scale as not to confuse it with 'A' that existed prior. Also, since it was the first letter in the word 'diamond,' it seemed to fit its position.


The greatest thing about diamond color is that it never fades. A diamond can be stored for years, and other than simply wiping the diamond clean it will sparkle as much as it did the day it was first polished. Diamonds really are forever.




In general, diamonds are defined and appraised based upon four elements, also called the 4 Cs. The 4Cs stand for the Clarity, Color, Cut, and Carat, and all four of these aspects are crucial for understanding and determining the true value of a diamond.


However, this way of evaluating diamonds is geared specifically toward colorless diamonds, where all 4 C’s are equally important, and less so for color diamonds for the simple reason that the color factor of color diamonds is the most important ‘C’.


Let us take a look at Fancy Color Diamonds, their color, and why it has such power over the remaining 3 Cs.


Defining Color Diamonds


The term Fancy Color Diamonds refers to natural diamonds which exhibit any sort of color. A diamond is actually a geographical element that is made of carbon in a crystal lattice structure that is formed millions of miles under the Earth’s surface. All diamonds are rare, but those gifted with unusual color tones are even rarer, and for the most part, far more valuable.


The 12 colors of diamonds: Yellow, Pink, Blue, Gree, Prange, Brown, Violet, Gra, Purple, Red, Black and White


Every color was created as a result of a specific element that got incorporated into the structure of the diamond during its formation, or alternatively, as a result of the rough conditions that the diamond endured over time. For example, a yellow diamond receives its color from the presence of nitrogen, and a blue diamond owes its sensational coloring to the element boron. Though it is still disputed, it is widely believed that pink diamonds receive their incredible hue from incredible pressure diamond’s crystal lattice.


 A yellow, pink and blue diamond

A Yellow, a Blue and a Pink diamond



Yellow in diamonds may be familiar to some because of the ‘C’ of color in colorless diamonds. However, though those diamonds also qualify as color diamonds, on the very bottom of the color diamond scale, they are not quite the stones to have in mind when picturing a fancy color diamond.



 The white diamond scale

The Color Scale for Colorless Diamonds



Diamonds with unique and rare colors such as pink, green, blue, yellow, red, orange, black, brown, gray, violet, white and purple hues, in various shades with assorted overtones, are what characterize this prestigious diamond category. Color is so important in color diamonds that there are two color-sub-categories: Color Intensity and Hue. This refers to the level in which the color is seen, and the exact color of the stone, as it can be one pure color or a combination of two or more colors. Generally, the rule of thumb is that the more pure and intense a color is (without secondary hues), the more valuable it will be.


Color Intensity


As with most of the 4 Cs, the color intensity of a fancy color diamond is assessed according to a scale. Just like colorless diamonds are graded according to their lack of color from least to most on a scale from D-Z, color diamonds are graded according to the strength of their color, from least to most, on a scale from Faint to Vivid. The color intensity grading scale works as follows: The lowest grade, (which is equivalent to an S-Z color grade on the colorless color grading scale in the case of Yellows), is Faint. Next is Very Light, Light, Fancy Light, Fancy, Fancy Intense, Fancy Vivid, and Fancy Deep.

 Fancy color diamond intensity

3 Diamond color intensity scales: Top-Red, Middle-Blue, Bottom-Green




These eight color intensity levels are not available for all diamond colors because the color in different diamonds is caused by different factors and therefore it presents itself differently in different colors. The best example is in black red, and white diamonds, which all can only be graded with the Fancy color intensity level. (nor can black or white diamonds have overtones, although red can have an overtone of purple , orange or brown). The higher the color intensity level, the more valuable the diamond although desirability changes depending on personal taste.


Red, Black and White diamonds

Left to right: A Fancy Purplish Red, Fancy Red, Fancy Brownish Red, Fancy Orangy Red, Black and White diamond


Primary and Secondary Hues


A fancy color diamond can be in one pure color, or have up to 3 modifying colors to the main color.. For instance, a pure Fancy Yellow diamond is one without any secondary hues such as green and orange. A Fancy Yellow Diamond with one secondary color could be an Orange Yellow Diamond whereas one with two secondary colors could be a Brownish Orangy Yellow Diamond. The secondary color is designated based on the concentration of its presence, so a Fancy Brown Yellow diamond has more brown than a Fancy Brownish Yellow diamond.


Left to right: A Fancy Brownish Yellow and a (larger) Fancy Brown Yellow diamond


Additional Names for Color Diamonds


For the most part, Fancy Color Diamonds are referred to by their colors, but there are several color categories that have additional names. For examples, brown diamonds can also be known as Chocolate Diamonds, Cognac Diamonds, or Champagne diamonds. Yellow diamonds are also commonly called Canary Diamonds, and a specific kind of yellow diamonds are called Zimmis. While these terms are largely due to marketing tactics, they can sometimes refer to specific types of diamonds in that designated color category. A Canary diamond, for instance, is not just a yellow diamond, but one that is Fancy Intense Yellow or Fancy Vivid Yellows. A Zimmi diamond is a yellow diamond from Sierra Leone.


Cut, clarity, and carat size also play important roles in regards to the worth of a colorl diamond although they most definitely take a back seat. When it comes to Fancy Color Diamonds, it’s all about the color.



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